Connect with the Impact of Your Work
I want to give a very tangible and real example of how to connect with the impact of your work. That was a very big theme that Aaron and I were talking about, and very, very close to developing your own purpose statement, is how do you connect with the impact of your work, and I'll give your just one mechanism, one way to do this effectively. You may be familiar with a guy named Adam Grant, wrote a couple books, one is called Originals, the other's called Give and Take, and he's been researching social situations for years and years, and in one of the examples, what he did was, he went to the University of Michigan, and he worked with a whole bunch of college students who were at a call center. So their job at the call center is to call alumni, dial the alumni, and solicit money that goes to tuition assistance, financial aid, tuition assistance kind of programs, okay? So, he goes in to this situation, there's about 40 kids he's working with, and the first thing he does, is he divides t...
hem into three groups. And he watches them, they're pretty much even, they make the same number of calls, and they raise roughly the same amount of money while they're doing this work. And then he plans one intervention, okay, so with the first group, they come in for work, and he says, hey everybody, thanks for coming in, we're gonna get going on the calls here this evening, two hours, we're gonna be calling alumni, trying to collect money for our work, but before we do that, just take a ten minutes break and you can go text your friends, call your mom, whatever you want to do, just come back in ten minutes. Basically no intervention. But the second group, the kids came in, and he said, hey everybody, thanks for being here, look before we get started, over here in the conference room, I have a bunch of letters. We've received letters from the beneficiaries of your work. So these are people who received scholarships and donations from the work that you're doing, from the money that you're raising. Just have a seat, you can read their testimony, read their story and background. And so they did, they sat down for ten minutes and read through these letters. With the third group, third group comes in, and he says, hey everybody, thanks so much for being here, we're actually not gonna start immediately making calls, I want you to meet Anthony. Hey Anthony, how are you doing, come on in. Anthony is a fifth year engineering student, he's from Detroit, and he's the first of his family to go to university, and they get to ask him questions, and learn about his story, and his background, and where he's from, and he wants to start a little tech firm in Silicon Valley with what he's learned. They get to connect with him personally, in that short period of time. Okay, why does this matter? Here's why it matters. Three different groups, the first two, either no intervention, or written, distant interaction with the beneficiaries. And the third group, a real human being. 250 percent more money earned, sustained one month after one intervention. This is the impact when we get closer and closer to the end result, the people that we're actually impacting around us. So think about how you can do this in your own work, whether it's, you work in the airplane industry, for example. You work in a consulting organization that helps build deeper relationships among colleagues and their customers, did I say that right? Yeah, and audiences as well. So, think about the application of how you can bring the people in your organization closer to the direct impact, and in some cases, the bigger the organization, the more alienated we can get from the direct impact of what we do. I work with big organizations quite regularly, and it can sometimes be difficult to be in the trenches and understand the context of your contribution in the greater whole, and then get out in the field, and see why it matters. Their conclusions, even brief minimal contact with beneficiaries can enable employees to maintain their motivation over time. I'll give you one last example of this that I like very much. You know the company, Timberland? Timberland Boots, right, they make boots. Timberland has a very pro social kind of mentality in their organization, in which every year, they have annual conferences, probably like many of your organizations. And most organizations go to Orlando, or Vegas, or these kinds of destinations that are setup for big conference kinds of circumstances. What Timberland does, is every year they try to choose a city, a municipality that needs help, that is distressed, so they can bring their economic input into the community and do something useful and constructive. So, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, in 2008, they went down to New Orleans, and they booked their conference down in New Orleans, all the sales reps, and their logistics, and even a lot of their vendors and partners in their supply chain. Went down to this conference in New Orleans, and aside from the regular sorts of conference meetings that you would have in this situation, they scheduled time for them to go work on a restaurant, refurbish an old church, do some pro social kind of embedded in the community kind of activity. Then, they had a little time to kill one day. And they got on the tour bus, and they took the tour bus down to the ninth ward. You remember the ninth ward? The ninth ward was the most distressed, destructed kind of environment in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And they took the buses down there, and parked them, and let the associates from Timberland get out and wander around, just see what there was, and absolutely, it was a complete disaster zone. There's materials strewn in the streets, and there's people needing help and care, there's a lack of fresh water, there's a lack of all kinds of infrastructure building tools that they need to rebuild their lives. And in one place, in the ninth ward, there's a big kiosk, like a shed, and in this shed was all kinds of materials, like hammers and nails, and canned food, and materials that the very people who lived there can use to put their lives back together. And one of the associates from Timberland wandered over and started chatting with the guy who was responsible for the nails and the screwdrivers, and the stuff there in the helping kiosk, and he said, what do you need the most? What would be very valuable, what would be very helpful? And he said, well most of the people down here in the ninth ward, they've lost everything, their houses are decimated and destroyed, a lot of their belongings are washed away, or moldy, and destroyed, and covered in mud. I look around, what they could actually really use is good shoes, good footwear to navigate this perilous environment. And so, the guy from Timberland, he shrugged and took off his shoes, his boots, and put them down there in the kiosk, and he walked back to the bus, and he got on the bus, and his boss looked over, and said, hey kid, where's your boots? And he shrugged, and he said, well I left them there as a donation to the shelter, they said they needed boots there. You can see what's gonna happen. One by one, every single person on the bus stood up, walked off, walked over to that shed, unlaced their boots, and set them down. And all of them walked back onto the bus. And you might think this is a moment of joy or elation, but he said it was one of the quietest bus rides back to the conference center at that time. But here's the reason I tell you that story. That story is on the lips, and ingrained in the mentality, the mind of every single associate at Timberland. Everyone can tell you that story. People who have been there for 20 years, and experienced it, and lived it, and new hires who hear that story, because built inside that story is the very fabric of their values, what they believe in, what they care about, what's close to their heart, why they do what they do, it's ingrained into the fabric of who they are. So that kind of strategic story, I call it a strategic story because it's a story with a purpose, and it holds your values that you can carry forth over time into the future and share it with those around you. So think about, my advice, of course, is think about what are those stories that are the binding glue of your organization that your can carry forth.